Vatican summons archbishop over alleged paedophile ring

Granada archbishop to explain failure to act over suspected abusive priests

Pope Francis telephoned the alleged victim of sex abuse by several priests and asked him to “forgive this extremely serious sin”. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Pope Francis telephoned the alleged victim of sex abuse by several priests and asked him to “forgive this extremely serious sin”. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

 

The archbishop of the southern Spanish city of Granada has been summoned to the Vatican this weekend to explain why he failed to take firmer action against a group of priests in his city who are being investigated for organising a longstanding child abuse ring.

The case came to the Vatican’s attention this spring, when a young man who claimed to have suffered brutal sexual abuse at the hands of several priests wrote to Pope Francis, appealing for help.

The alleged victim, who is 24 and whose name has not been revealed, claims that three priests and a layperson repeatedly raped him from the age of 13 until he was 17.

‘Extremely serious sin'

The pope responded to the letter, telephoning the alleged victim in person in August and asking him to “forgive this extremely serious sin”, according to the newspaper Religión Digital. Pope Francis also told him that “people are already working so that all of this can be resolved.”

The Vatican then contacted the archbishop of Granada, Francisco Martínez, requesting that he investigate and take necessary action.

Dr Martínez launched an inquiry and removed three priests – apparently those identified by the victim as his abusers – from their public duties last month. However others who knew about the abuses and may have helped to cover them up, faced no action, according to El País newspaper.

In a radio interview yesterday, the archbishop acknowledged that the accusations were true, describing them as “a tremendous wound in the body of Christ”.

He said he had met the victim for several hours and listened to his accusations. However also defended his own response to the scandal, insisting he acted promptly and that evidence was needed before further action could be taken.

Yet the archbishop’s handling of the case appears not to have impressed the Vatican. The victim received a second telephone call from Pope Francis, who expressed his disappointment at the limited scope of the internal investigation. This weekend, the pope is expected to give the archbishop his opinion face to face.

Meanwhile, the victim has taken his case to a court in Granada, which opened a judicial investigation in October and is expected to make arrests in the next few days.

Ten priests and two laypersons are under investigation. The victim has told authorities that he believes other children were abused and that the members of the ring had sexual relations between themselves.

Paedophile “sect”

According to El País, several of those involved behaved like members of a paedophile “sect”, grooming choirboys and child church volunteers in the Granada district of Zaidín, before abusing them in private properties in or near the city.

The victim has maintained links with the Catholic Church, working as a teacher in an Opus Dei school.

He decided to contact the Vatican directly about the case after Pope Francis’s declaration in April of a “zero tolerance” policy towards paedophilia within the church.